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Urban Park Characteristics in Integrating Mental Health Comorbid with Non-Communicable Diseases

Urban Park, a green sanctuary nestled within bustling cities, serves as a vital space for recreation and well-being. With the rise of mental health problems that co-occur with non-communicable diseases, research has shown that a green environment can ease these characteristics with mental and physical health in Malaysia. In response, an interdisciplinary team led by Associate Prof. Dr. Hazreena Hussein embarked on a comprehensive study.

 

The research team also consist of Prof. Dr. Jas Laile Suzana Jaafar from the Department of Educational Psychology and Counselling as co-researcher giving inputs on the mental health aspect, Professor Catharine Ward Thompson from OPENspace Research Centre, University of Edinburgh as co-researcher and a postgraduate student, Syaidatul Azzreen Ishak.

 

According to Assoc. Prof Dr Hazreena, their research aimed to examine the characteristics of urban parks that can reduce mental health problems (specifically depression, anxiety, and stress) by focusing on the B40 population, looking at Taman Rimba Bukit Kerinchi as a case study. Taman Rimba Bukit Kerinchi is a free-to-enter 66.15 hectares recreational park that is managed by Kuala Lumpur City Council (DBKL) and is surrounded by mixed development area of Pantai Hillpark, Jalan Pantai Dalam.


Green shade and eye-catching view in the park — picture taken by Azzreen, PhD student in the team.

Taman Rimba Kerinchi’s most striking landmark, the suspension bridge. Picture adapted from: https://pokokkelapa.wordpress.com/2021/02/04/taman-rimba-bukit-kerinchi-hike/comment-page-1/

 

“Initially, we planned to collect saliva to measure the stress hormone. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic at that time, we are not able to collect such data from the residents.” Shared by the postgraduate student, Azzreen.

 

To overcome such hassle, the team decided to use a self-reported method by distributing a survey questionnaire to low-income communities living at PPR around Taman Rimba Bukit Kerinchi. The Perceived Stress Scale and Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale were employed to gauge stress levels and mental well-being. Both data were collected to find the links between the amount of green space and stress levels in residents. Additionally, the interview session with local authorities from the Landscape Department of DBKL provided valuable insight of the park.

 

“From our research, we found out there are 11 urban park elements preferred by the residents, which are good wayfinding; clean and well-maintained parks; well-designed walking trails; provided car parks and bicycle racks; shade structure and shelter; seating; vegetation; a variety of activities; good natural lighting; safety; and a short distance from the park to the residential area. By knowing what element is liked or disliked by the visitors - allows the future developers to make an evidence-based park modification to increase the number of visitors,” she said.


Facilities like the campsite and signboards around the park. Picture adapted from: https://pokokkelapa.wordpress.com/2021/02/04/taman-rimba-bukit-kerinchi-hike/comment-page-1/



Stairs and paths to ease the hiker.
Picture adapted from:

 

With all of the information obtained from the research, there are a few goals that they hope to achieve:


  1. Identify the park elements that could inclusively cater to the needs of every group of people.

  2. The research-derived recommendations on the quantity, quality, and spatial model of the urban park have the potential to significantly bolster its efficacy in alleviating stress.

  3. Able to influence the policy maker to set a guideline for future developers to follow before building an urban park.

 

For future studies, they hope the saliva cortisol study can be implemented together with the clinical diagnoses for health status among low-income communities for a more quantitative and accurate analysis. Not only that, a higher number of respondents is also expected and a comparison of different urban parks in Kuala Lumpur will also be done for a deeper insight.

 

In their dedicated efforts, the team aspires to contribute to creating better urban parks for low-income communities in Malaysia, aligning with social development goals, particularly SDG 3 (Good health and well-being) and SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities).

 

 

Researchers featured:
Associate Professor Dr Hazreena Hussein
Department of Architecture
Faculty of Built Environment, Universiti Malaya
 
Professor Dr Jas Laile Suzana Jaafar
Department of Educational Psychology and Counselling
Faculty of Education, Universiti Malaya
 
Syaidatul Azzreen Ishak - PhD Candidate
 
Author:
Lim Kai Shi
 
Sharing knowledge is the first step of humanity.’ I am Kai Shi, a Biomedical Science undergraduate who are passionate in sharing academic knowledges and stories to anyone who are interested (include the public). Currently, I am working on Parkinson’s disease genetic research, for those who are in similar field, I am open for connection!
 


Copyedit:
Siti Farhana Bajunid Shakeeb Arsalaan Bajunid
Assistant Registrar, Universiti Malaya
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